This isn’t normally how I do these sort of things. But Youjo Senki was recommended to me by a crapton of friends, telling me this is right up my alley. Now, I’m paraphrasing Ben “Yahtzee” Crowshaw’s review of COD4: Modern Warfare. It’s as If all the bleating sheep said this was a good series.
And in a way, it was.
This is probably /k/’s newest favorite anime/manga series after GATE. I mean, an über-rational Japanese salaryman climbing the corporate ladder gets reborn into the loli Nazi in an alternate timeline where magic is prevalent. I don’t think there hasn’t been a collective boner on the mil-themed anime fandom since the JGSDF came upon the besieged Itarica emulating the Ride of the Valkyries scene from Apocalypse Now.
The story seems standard alternate history fare though, something that Harry Turtledove could’ve come up with while he was enjoying a morning bagel and coffee. The Great War being set back a decade or so seems to be a pretty popular setting for a bunch of fan-fiction and literature, and adding elements like magic onto it isn’t particularly innovative.
That said however, the motivations of the fight still end up falling as “Germany got dragged into something and is blamed for the war”. The start of the war has the Legadonia Entente Alliance breaking the fragile peace by entering and violating the Norden buffer zone between LEA and the Empire. Of course the Empire is unwilling to back down in lieu of such blatant violations to its sovereignty and attacks, setting off what should’ve been a regional conflict. The François Republic gets in on the fighting due to some long-standing territorial contests with the Empire, and the Dacia Grand Duchy does so as well.
When the Empire though starts to kick ass, mainly due to its pre-war policy of localized defense forces and centralized reaction forces (and in no small part to Tanya von Degurechaff and the 203rd Aerial Mage Battalion), the fall of the Grand Duchy, Alliance, and finally the Republic creates what could best be seen as the world’s first super-power. While no doubt the Allied Kingdom has its real-world empire intact as it was at the start of our Great War, it is highly likely they would’ve tolerated such an industrially strong and militarily dominant nation engulfing the whole of the European continent.
So this sets up something of an interlude at the end, with the Free François Republic existing as a state in Northern Africa, supported now publicly by the remnants of the Empire and the Allied Kingdom, and the Russy Federation, with the Unified States of America seemingly starting to send volunteer troops and more material to the growing anti-Empire alliance. The Great War is truly touched off in Tanya’s universe with this new state of affairs. Whereas the earlier conflicts can be seen as regional in scope, this second round of fighting will end up burning the whole world.
All because some politicians wanted to beat their chests and they knocked over the hornet’s nest.
That and we’ll see the Sioux family continue their zealous pursuit of the “Devil of the Rhine”, or in the eyes of our protagonist and of us, the pawns of Being X. Which leads me to the next point, the characters. If I am allowed to paraphrase Heinlein, a good chef will take ingredients and make a great meal, while a bad one will turn it into nothing better than mud. To me the chef in this regard is always how the author/story team flesh out their characters. I felt that for the time constraints that a 13 episode series has, they did a pretty okay job. But that falls under my belief that light novel adaptations need more than one cour to fully obtain the same level of impact the original source had.
Tanya von Degurechaff, even in her watered down animated form, is an interesting character. As the YouTuber Golden Battler noted, she is surprisingly deep, single-mindedly following an ideological philosophy that seems to effect the world around her. She is almost to a fault, willing to do anything it takes to end up at a comfortable station in life, the corporate grind applied to a military structure.
All that is great but I think the anime, while pulling off some great characterization, seems to lack when compared to the manga and light novel. Though I blame that primarily due to the inability to really explain the underlying motivations a character has when compared to the written version versus animated media. I honestly preferred if Tanya underwent more internal monologues, especially in the cartoonish depictions that depict such story filling information. Maybe that could’ve been animated, but it would’ve certainly cut on the pacing and overall serious tone set for the anime.
One thing that is certainly prevalent is that I can’t help but root for Tanya. Even if I were to be presented a choice between her and Anson, I will have to choose Tanya because 1) the series as a whole gives more of her as a motivation 2) Tanya is one of those ‘fun’ evil villains. As another YouTuber, The Pedantic Romantic points out, Youjo Senki allows the viewer to be wrong. We can root for the demon because the demon is presented in a sympathetic light.
Anson Sioux was consistent in his appearance in the start of the series and the battle over the fjord. His turn to a religious zealot wasn’t as abrupt as I initially thought it was, especially since this was a man who had lost his nation to an opponent that shows no mercy at all. He recovered in time to hear about the bombing of civilians, and
realizes knows that Tanya was a monster that had to be dealt with as God commanded.
His failure to not kill her isn’t the end, as Mary Sioux pushes her way into the U.S. Volunteers with the same religious zealotry (and invoked magical powers) her father displayed upon his reappearance.
Erich von Rerugen is another character whom I believed had a good run and given enough personality. I characterized him as someone with some inkling of Tanya’s game playing. His job is to be the best staff officer for the Empire, a status he readily achieved. But he is still constrained by what Tanya would describe as backwards thinking, an ethical and moral code that is more in line with the gentleman’s warfare that was eroding already in the wars of Empire in the turn of the century and completely smashed flat at the bogging down of the 1st World War in our timeline. He is constantly mortified by Tanya’s action, and his superiors letting her decisions flavor theirs scares him, for he’s seen the demon under the mask of a little girl, and it frightens him.
But to me, that was all that was given to most of the other characters, which is an utter shame. Visha isn’t really given much of an explanation. Her motivations for joining even when she’s clearly barely hanging on in the beginning, nor is she explained why she had a different name in comparison to the Germanic sounding Imperials. Maybe it’ll come in the supposed 2nd season, when there are operations in the Russy Federation, and she comes ‘home’ in a sense that her family fled the in-world Communist revolt that forced her from home.
The other members of Tanya’s 203rd Battalion and indeed the other characters seem to only have enough characterization to make them stand out some, coming to play when needed. Hopefully in the supposed 2nd season we’ll see more of them and finally get more than a few paragraphs worth of character development.
Youjo Senki though has a very explicit attention to detail, something I noticed quite well particularly in the firearms used. As my earlier entries discussing the series were focused on the weaponry, I think those can better explain why I as a person love it. It’s the attention to detail. While the manga was more fantastical in their depiction of the mages, the anime seems to have stepped down to something more realistic.
The Empire’s completely utilitarian mage equipment seems fitting especially when the Alliance, Republic, and Allied Kingdom seem to be modelling their equipment after a national character or stereotype. The role of chivalrous knights in the Republic, of magus and witches with the Allied Kingdom, and the vaunted alpine and winter troopers with the Alliance. They all speak to the national character.
And I think that’s it for my impressions. I still say the best way to beat something out of me is to engage me in discussion, and I learn something new or someone else learns something new because of it, but I don’t think I do this badly.
Youjo Senki was a fun series, held by the strength of its protagonist, and keeping my attention partially because of Tanya von Degurchaff, but also due to tantalizing the firearms enthusiast in me. Its big failures in my eyes is not allowing for a bit more background explanation and the character design changes to Tanya but most especially Visha when compared to the light novel and manga. But after a while one doesn’t really see that anymore.
Sorry if this was a bit longwinded and scattered, I did this post in fits and starts.